Musgrave, the Irish group operating the SuperValu and Centra retail franchises, is moving into the lucrative foodservice sector.

A cash and carry outlet, serving the €3.5 bn Irish ­hotel, restaurant and catering market, is due to open in the Dublin suburb of Bally­mun in September, with more outlets planned elsewhere in the Republic over the next two years.

The outlets will be operated by Musgrave Wholesale Service (MWS), a unit within the group, which last year bought Belfast-based ­Variety Foods and C&R Frozen Foods. A team travelled to Belgium and Holland to research the idea. "There's nothing quite like it either here or in the UK," said Musgrave marketing manager Ruth Craig.

The Ballymun outlet represents an investment of more than €2m. Chefs have been brought in to help ­retrain staff.